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War of the Rebellion, 




No. 8. Second Series. 



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Before Petersburg, 






Copyrighted by 





[Read before the Society, Jan. 14, 1880.] 

On December 14th, 1864, I was mustered into the 
national service as a second lieutenant of the Second 
Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, upon condition 
that I raise a company (G) toward refilling said regi- 
ment; was placed on waiting orders January 3, 1865; 
was sent to the draft rendezvous, more popularly 
known as the Conscript Camp, at Grapevine Point, 
then in Fairhaven, now in New Haven, Connecticut, 
on the fourteenth of the same month; and was shipped 
with my command on March thirteenth, by the screw 
transport Euterpe, to City Point, Virginia. Anchor 
was cast on the evening of the sixteenth in James 
River, some twenty miles below our destination, and 
here was received the first intimation that I had ap- 

* I have endeavored to portray a soldier's life as Ue lived it. That is suffi- 
cient explanation of certain statements and expressions. e. e. p., jr. 


proached a dangerous neighborhood. I had re- 
tired to my stateroom and just fallen asleep when my 
first lieutenant (William Vincent Carr, of Providence), 
entered and asked. 

"Is your revolver loaded?" 

" Yes sir !" was the response, given as promptly as 
though I had lain awake for hours. 

''Is it in convenient reach?" 


" Where ?" 

" In its holster, hanging with belt and sword on 
yonder hook." 

" Had you not better have it under your pillow ?" 

" I can reach it in ten seconds." 

" I think you had best place it under your head," 
he continued, at the same time banding me the 

" Very well ! What's the matter ?" 

" Oh, nothing ; only I thought you should have it 
ready for instant use ;" whereupon he left and in 
three minutes I was sound asleep. Next morning, 
seventeenth, I asked. 

" What was the trouble last night." 


" The commander of the Euterpe stated night at- 
tacks are frequently made by guerillas and confed- 
erate pickets upon vessels lying midstream ; we 
therefore set double guards and made every prepara- 
tion to receive callers." 

" Why did you not tell me this last night?" 
" I did not wish unnecessarily to alarm you !" 
" Thank you !" was the simple response gratefully 
returned for such thoughtful consideration. 

We anchored off City Point about ten o'clock ; a tug 
conveyed us to the shore. So much time was occu- 
pied by the formalities attendant upon the transfer of 
the large squad of general recruits to the provost 
marshal's department, that we were detained until 
the six o'clock train. This was composed neither of 
hotel nor palace cars. But a single passenger car 
could be found. Two freight cars accommodated our 
company, the men sitting on their knapsacks, the 
officers on their valises. For the first few miles we 
speed along right merrily, but soon sensations most 
unique are experienced. The cars are not rocking 
unusually, but — can it be possible ? they certainly are 
plunging ! Yes ! despite most persistent effort it is 


impossible to maintain vertically. We are testing 
that novelty of modern warfare. Grant's military rail- 
way. Peculiar in its origin and purpose, it was no 
less singular in construction. Unprecedented condi- 
tions presented themselves as essential elements in 
its engineering problems, and their fulfillment indi- 
cates the power of military necessity. Its vales were 
so deep that bad trains stopped therein, they had 
been hopelessly imprisoned ; its hills so frequent we 
seemed to bound from crest to crest as on the restless 
billows ; its trestlework so light a McCIellan might 
well hesitate to trust himself with a hand-car thereon; 
and yet the fragile structure was the aorta of the 
army. Therewith was borne to every portion unfail- 
ing supplies of life and strength. And this within 
easy cannon range of the enemy's picket ! 

Dark night had settled upon us when we reached 
— somewhere ! Our cars had been uncoupled, and 
we were alone in the gloom — most emphatically 
" strangers in a strange land." After brief consulta- 
tion, Lieutenant Carr, with a sergeant as escort, 
started forth in search of information. Stumbling by 
chance into some general's quarters, he secured an 


orderly for guide and straightly returned. (He de- 
parted crookedly, " not knowing whither he went.") 
Column was formed in four ranks, doubled files, and 
the order given, "march!" The sacred soil had been 
thoroughly baked, and every wheel track and hoof 
print of the entire winter was preserved as by cast- 
iron. Moreover, surface drains, natural and artifi- 
cial, abounded. Over all and through all these we 
staggered, with scarce a star to cheer us, not even a 
match flicker to illume our way. After a half hours 
groping (it seemed thrice as long), we discovered a 
slight ascent just ahead, and simultaneously heard 
the sharp challenge, "Halt! who goes there?" 
" Company G, Second Rhode Island," was the answer. 
The word passed like wildfire along the regimental 
guard, its sergeant relieved our guide, and lo ! the 
entire regiment had rushed from its quarters and 
with enthusiastic shouts welcomed us to its midst. 
We passed through the broad street in front of the 
officers' huts, to regimental headquarters, where our 
captain, (Charles W. Gleason) was introduced, the 
men billetted upon their antecedent comrades for 
present entertainment, and the two lieutenants in- 


vited by the commander, (Lieutenant Colonel Elisha 
H. Rhodes) to tea. That supper-table was most 
curiously scanned ! I had heard much concerning 
the privations endured by our brave soldiers before 
Petersburg, and was naturally somewhat anxious ; 
but when I viewed the savory ham, the light, white 
bread, the sweet butter and rich cheese, the delicious 
sweet-cake and fragrant coffee, all served with neat 
white ware, my spirits rose and I felt that possibly 
I might survive, even though as a subaltern I could 
not fare quite so sumptuously every day. 

After our frugal repast was concluded, the officers 
were invited to headquarters and introduced. A 
very pleasant social evening followed. At its close, 
we were shown to a snug little " tent " near the cen- 
ter of the officers' street, our quarters for the night. 
This was so perfect a gem, I became desperately en- 
amored at sight; indeed, when Captain Gleason an- 
nounced some days later that our new, spacious and 
elegant stockade was ready for occupation, I con- 
vinced him it was not worth the trouble to move un- 
til we should discover what the disturbances then 
rife would amount to. Hence, the palace was occu- 


pied, never! But to return to my little "shebang" ; it 
was a miniature log cabin, save that in place of a 
shingle roof there was a triple thickness of tenting. 
The side walls were less than five feet in height ; 
the ridge pole a trifle over six feet from the ground ; 
the width of the hut about seven feet, and the 
length, say fifteen feet. The floor was of the " sacred 
soil " beaten so hard as to resemble cement ; the 
chimney occupied one entire end, save the doorway, 
and was constructed of double length kindling wood. 
Mud served well for plaster whenever required. At 
the opposite end was the bedstead ; four forked 
stakes driven into the ground formed the support: 
straight ones about two and one-half inches in diam- 
eter, connected the two on either side ; these in turn 
were joined by an indefinite number of straight twigs 
an inch in diameter lying lengthwise, and resting so 
closely separation and bulging were impossible; 
upon these was scattered a tolerable quantity of old 
hay ; next came sundry rubber blankets, and above 
all a liberal supply of woolen ones. I have found 
more uncomfortable resting places in many a preten- 
tious residence. On one side the room was a small 


stationary table, made of boards that once encased 
" hard tack ;" upon it rested a cheap tin candlestick, 
and above was a single shelf; a solitary stool of 
rough boards stood in front; on the opposite side was, 
space just sufficient for two army valises ; lengthwise 
and above, in the topmost log, was a row of nails for 
hats, caps, overcoats, sword-belts, etc. The door, 
swinging on leathern hinges, was of the same ma- 
terial as the table, was closed with a wooden latch, 
and was secured by a thong. Such was my home 
before Petersburg. I ne'er shall find its equal for 
pleasure and repose. 

Next morning, Saturday, eighteenth, I naturally 
looked around to discover what manner of place I 
was in, and first I went to view the rifle trench. 
This consisted, at that particular point, simply of a 
low parapet — say four and one half feet in length — 
without banquette, but revetted with turf and fas- 
cines. The superior and exterior slopes were not 
accurately graded, yet the latter was sufficiently 
steep to afford decided vantage should it be neces- 
sary to spring to the top and use the bayonet in re- 
pelling an attack. The ditch was simply an irregular 


depression whence earth had been taken as con- 
venient to build the work. Looking forth directly 
to the front — northwest just there — a plain stretched 
away unencumbered by trees or shrubs. Distant 
about two hundred yards could be distinguished, 
with difficulty, our picket line, protecting not only 
ourselves but a double row of abattis just this side. 
On the right, three-eighths of a mile away, was Bat- 
tery Twenty-six ; on the left about equidistant, 
Fort Wadsworth. Facing to the rear we observe 
first an avenue one-hundred and fifty feet wide, 
following the line of earthworks, and furnishing an 
unobstructed passage-way for troops ; next a village 
of six streets, to which was subsequently added a 
seventh, at right angles to the avenue. Upon these, 
front huts of diverse form and size, whose inmates 
were determined originally by similarity of tastes. 
Beyond is a street twenty-five feet wide, occupied 
on the farther side by the row of officers' huts. 
Midway in this line is quite an interval revealing, 
still farther to the rear, a low palisade with narrow 
gateway. Immediately within and parallel to the 
fence, is a deep but narrow draining ditch, crossed by 


a light bridge. Next is a carefully prepared bed, 
ellipsoidal in shape and intended possibly for flowers 
when spring shall be sufficiently advanced. Around 
this are grouped the quarters of the field and staff. 
At the foci are two stakes to which are fastened 
by day the state and national colors. Between these 
a path runs direct from the gate to the opposite side 
of the plot, terminating before the door of a hut, 
which is official headquarters. Here all routine 
business is transacted, and until our arrival it was 
simply an office. Now the acting major. Captain 
James A. Bowen, makes it his home. It is flanked 
by two tents, the one for horse equipments, the other 
for general stores. At the southwest extremity of 
the ellipse, is an elegant and spacious hut with boarded 
floor and paneled door, erected by the regiment 
during the colonel's absence in the early Spring, 
and occupied by himself and surgeon, (William F. 
Smith, a subject of Great Britain.) Opposite is an 
ordinary hut, the domain of Acting Adjutant Prank S. 
Halliday and Quartermaster Robert VV Small. 

To the right and to the rear of the camp, is quite 
an abrupt descent. Near its base is an inexhausti- 


Me spring of peerless water. Beyond the valley is 
the railroad, and higher knolls more remote. Camps 
are thickly strewn on the right and the left. On 
my extreme right a signal tower rises conspicuously 
more than a hundred and fifty feet. The grass has 
hardly started ; all trees have been leveled and con- 
sumed ; yet the picture seems but that of a grand 
military picnic. Not a sound breaks the peaceful 
quiet save the twitter of the vernal birds, the whistle 
of the locomotives, and — what ! how shall I describe 
that sound ? Surely there are no ducks nor geese 
around ; there is no running water ; nor yet any live 
turkeys. But what can that be ? I hear it again. 
It will not do to ask. I wait patiently several days, 
when by chance strolling near the stable, that now 
familiar sound again salutes my ears. 1 turn quickly 
and discover a long-eared, light-heeled, narrow-tailed 
songster of the field energetically rehearsing for the 
next concert. 

No cannonading was heard until evening and then 
it was quite distant — say two miles, or the region of 
Fort Hell (Sedgwick). The sound seemed a cross 
between that produced by a battery of light artillery 


practicing with blank cartridges, half a mile removed, 
and distant thunder. 

Sunday morning, nineteenth, heard some brisk 
picket firing, also in the distance, not unlike a party 
out gunning, as of course it really was. On our own 
front this rarely occurred; the boys had a tacit un- 
derstanding not to annoy one another. In the fore- 
noon I visited a neighboring chapel and listened to 
an excellent discourse on " Christ the Head of the 
Church." The congregation was composed of en- 
listed men, with but a moderate sprinkling of shoulder 
straps. At the close of the service ten men publicly 
professed their attachment to the Redeemer, in the 
manner customary to pedobaptist denominations. It 
is true that some of the delegates of the Christian 
Commission, through errors of judgment, occasionally 
preached and prayed when they should have been 
ministering to the physical necessities of those 
around them, thereby casting a certain discredit 
upon the cause to which they were truly devoted. 
Yet by the greater value of the soul over the body is 
to be estimated the greater importance of their 
work to any other. 


On Monday, twentieth, as officer of the day I had 
charge of camp. In the afternoon the regiment 
marched off to participate. in a grand review of the 
corps by Admiral Porter. When it returned every 
one was so begrimed it was impossible to recognize 
even old friends. The effect of dust is wonderful ; 
so long as a person remains in the crowd and takes 
his share, he maintains his relationship ; let him be 
away, and every one becomes a stranger. 

In the evening Colonel Rhodes, having been duly 
empowered when at home, opened a lodge of the 
Union League, and conferred membership upon Lieu- 
tenants Dorrance (John Kinnicut,) Carr and myself. 
However solemn the rites may have been in spacious 
halls, adorned with costly paraphernalia, they could 
not have been half so impressive as when performed 
almost within range of hostile guns ; the banners, 
battle-flags to be defended even at the cost of life ; 
the swords, blades that on more than one occasion 
had drank deep of an enemy's blood. The obliga- 
tions were thus possessed of a reality found no- 
where else. 

About half-past eleven o'clock the brigade sutler, 


some distance removed, having excited the ire of the 
boys by alleged unjust transactions, received a visit- 
ation. The tent pins were quietly drawn and sud- 
denly he found the canvass dropped on his head com- 
pletely enveloping him. After considerable exer- 
tion he tunnelled his way out and fired three shots 
from his revolver at retreating shadows No one 
was hurt — neither did the spirits retire bootless. 
As this took place beyond my precinct, I could not 

Tuesday, twenty -first, afternoon and evening was 
characterized by a very severe rainstorm, yet the 
canvas roof protected the interior of the " tent " so 
perfectly that we slept as sound and dry as if in 
marble halls. 

Wednesday, twenty-second, I was sent in charge 
of the fatigue detail to Fort Fisher, two and a quarter 
miles distant as the crow flies, towards the left, and 
the most salient work in that section. It was nearlv 
completed save the bomb proofs. My squad, thanks 
to its diminutiveness, was set to turnpiking, the 
easiest duty in that neighborhood. Its nature may 
be inferred by those who have witnessed the repair 


of country roads. Should a person be overmuch 
afflicted with military romancing it can most speedily 
be cured by assigning some such task for a few 
days. It is far more prosaic than marching. 

Thursday, twenty-third, was a memorable day. A 
heavy gale prevailed for many hours, unroofing huts 
and levelling tents. The sacred clay, as already in- 
timated, had been thoroughly baked, but constant at- 
trition of countless feet had reduced protuberances 
to finest dust. This was borne aloft by the wind, 
and for hours it was impossible to see twenty-five 
feet, frequently not six feet ahead. As I sat in my 
"shebang" with door tightly closed, so readily did the 
dust penetrate my practically waterproof roofing, 
that in five minutes after brushing my coat it looked 
as if its wearer had just been extricated from a meal 
bin. I speedily learned not to be over fastidious in 

Two points of vital interest may well be alluded to 
here ; my subsistence and my society. Of course it 
eould not be expected that a subaltern should fare as 
sumptuously as he who sported a double row of but- 
tons, nor his viands be served as elegantly ; yet the 


necessity of eating rested equally on both. Our 
mess, unusually large, was composed of two captains, 
and four or five lieutenants. Immediately upon tak- 
ing the field it was broken up, Captain Gleason, Lieu- 
tenant Carr and myself, remaining together. Regi- 
mental sutlers had been ordered to City Point be- 
fore my arrival, hence we depended chiefly on gov- 
ernment supplies. We had hot short-cake and cold 
meat for supper; cold short-cake, "soft bread" 
(baker's bread) and either cold or warm meat, for 
breakfast ; hot meat and excellent potatoes, with 
bread, for dinner. Onions, that best of antiscorbu- 
tics, were abundant, and I had them on the table gen- 
erally twice a day. Our coffee was the very best, 
though I preferred Adam's ale ; frequently toast was 
served ; this last was generally prepared from " hard 
tack " a cracker resembling the ordinary pilot bread, 
so justly esteemed for chowders, save that its shape 
was square. The condensed milk at hand was quite 
sweet and of scarcely less consistence than the 
cream of cream-cakes. An excellent substitute for 
these was extemporized by dipping three spoonsful 
of the milk upon a slice of soft bread. The meat was 


served variously ; in the form of a pie, a stew, a soup> 
a fry or a broil. It was invariably porcine or bovine. 
Two or three days after the Port Steadman difficulty 
our supply of fresh meat gave out, and subsequently 
we lived chiefly on ham. Soft bread disappeared 
about the same time. Our table and kitchen ware 
was exclusively of tin and steel. 

Concerning social privileges it may be remarked 
that in camp as elsewhere, " birds of a feather flock 
together," and one's natural temperament will 
speedily attract congenial spirits. Moreover, two 
hidden chains bind closely those elsewise perfect 
strangers ; the ecclesiastic and the mystic tie — a 
common faith and a common brotherhood. Their 
strength and durability is as their respective origins ; 
the former drew me to my regimental commander 
then, the second has since thrown its influence around 
me also. The paternal consideration he manifested 
towards his junior officer, the wise counsel and gen- 
tle encouragement given, secured at once my highest 
regard, my profoundest gratitude, and the interven- 
ing decade and a half has but strengthened these 
sentiments. My captain was a man of superior 


natural ability, of unflinching, yet unpretentious 
courage, of unquestioned honor and integrity; cour- 
teous, even gentle to his men, yet a strict disciplina- 
rian. In all the line there was none so qualified to 
rank his associates. He was one of nature's noble- 
men, and I could but weep bitterly, when, as I lay 
upon the ground at the field hospital at Sailor's 
Creek, news of his untimely fate was imparted me. 
My senior lieutenant had secured my regard by 
weeks of intimate association at the draft rendez- 
vous ; what need had I of other friends? And yet 
my associates of the line were all that could be de- 
sired. The regiment was practically, if not absolutely, 
temperate. The colonel said he would not have a 
drunken officer in his command, and he did not. All 
knew what conduct is " becoming an officer and a 
gentleman," and nearly every one conformed himself 
strictly thereto. While I am willing frankly to ad- 
mit that I could not have seen camp life more favor- 
ably circumstanced, I wish most emphatically to de- 
clare that there is nothing of itself demoralizing or 
debasing in a soldier's career, War simply devel- 
opes character ; it makes a good man better and a 


bad man worse. The same influences produce an- 
tagonistic effects. Fifteen years of careful observa- 
tion in the ranks, line, field and staff of the naval, 
military and militia services, have but intensified my 

On Friday, twenty-fourth, was notified I should 
have charge of the picket detail on the morrow. 

On Saturday, twenty-fifth, was up and dressed at 
half-past five. Had heard firing on the Ninth Corps 
front every night since the eighteenth, but it seemed 
unusually lively now. Both cannonading and mus- 
ketry were rapidly increasing, until it became evi- 
dent somebody was making a serious disturbance in 
that section; still everything moved on in camp as 
usual. About seven, the picket detail fell in and I 
marched therewith to brigade headquarters. In a 
few moments the several details were ordered back 
to their respective commands. Upon reaching camp 
I found the regiment drawn up in line of battle. 
With accustomed foresight, Colonel Rhodes had di- 
rected the men to prepare for marching and fighting 
with one day's rations in their haversacks, so when 
orders came for him to move at once to the scene of 


discord, be had only to wait the return of my squad. 
Its members fell in promptly with their comrades 
and the Second Rhode Island was the first to march. 
I was ordered to report to my captain. 

It does produce on the reflective mind peculiar 
sensations, thus to witness the departure for the field 
of strife of a body of men, all acquaintances and 
many warm personal friends, while the crash of 
resounding arms fills the ear. Some shall never 
again be met on earth ; others will be dismembered; 
many more seamed or scarred by steel, lead or iron: 
all will endure danger, privation and suffering; and 
everything so imminent. 

Special orders directed one company of each regi- 
ment should be left to guard the line. Company G 
was detailed for this purpose, more particularly, per- 
haps, because hitherto it had not received muskets 
or cartridge boxes. My first duty then was to assist 
the captain in distributing these important equip- 
ments ; also, a liberal allowance of cartridges. Un- 
like most, our cartridge boxes were worn just below 
the breast, and thus maintained by two straps pass- 
ing straight over the shoulders and attached to the 


waist-belt behind. The complicated nature of this 
arrangement was such as to secure from the boys the 
epithet of " mule harness." My second duty was to 
assist in instructing the men in the manual of arms. 
While thus engaged the left of a strong line of skir- 
mishers appeared, which, taking intervals from the 
right, extended along the rifle trench from the battle 
ground, about half a mile to our left. About ten 
o'clock the firing ceased. It was quite hazy whence 
the sound proceeded, and had been from earliest 
morning. At eleven o'clock Ave were ordered to 
hold ourselves in readiness to march. The baggage 
wagons were packed and preparations made for 
striking the tents, some of which were indeed taken 
down. At noon the brigade returned to its head- 
quarters, where it enjoyed a brief rest. About the 
same time I heard brisk cannonading on the left, in 
the direction of Fort Fisher. The brigade moved on, 
and the firing increased in intensity. I mounted the 
breastwork and scanned that horizon with eager eye. 
I could see the flash of the thirty-two pounders on 
Fort Fisher, and hear the whistle of their balls ; also 
the rattle of musketry. The atmosphere became 



densely fumid, especially when nearer forts opened. 
Even Battery Twenty-six, on our right, tossed over 
a few shells by way of additional gentle stimulus. 

While viewing the prospect I turned to my supe- 
rior and veteran officer with the remark, " Captain, 
do you know what a battle sounds like?" "No!" 
was the reply, " what does it resemble ?" " Well," 
said I, *' if you take a dozen bunches of powder 
crackers and tie to them while in cluster, at chance 
points, twenty or more cannon crackers, and then 
light the fuses at one end, I think you would have a 
pretty good representation of a battle, at least, so far 
as noise is concerned." " If you were there you 
would think of powder crackers," he exclaimed, in 
rather a sarcastic manner. " Oh," I replied, " of 
course it would sound louder and perhaps different 
if one were engaged;" and yet I am to-day unable 
to give a better recipe for producing the din of bat- 
tle in a modest way. 

At half past three o'clock the wagons moved off. 
A large New York regiment appeared and took its 
place before the camp; Company G was in line a lit- 
tle to its left. About five there was sharp firing on 


our front, so the captain gave the order " Load with 
ball — Load!" It was rich to see the eagerness with 
which the young recruits inserted their bullets. It 
seemed as though some would climb the barrels and 
dive into the muzzles of their pieces, such was their 
joy at even the remote prospect of work. None 
came to disturb our quiet, however, so after a half 
hour's interval arms were stacked and the men dis- 
missed. At six o'clock the firing ceased almost en- 
tirely Meanwhile we had been ordered to hold our- 
selves in readiness to march at an instant's notice, 
and our baggage train had departed ; yet at eight 
o'clock in the evening the wagons returned, so we 
felt sure we might expect the regiment sometime. 
It appeared about two in the morning, Sunday, twen- 
ty-sixth, decidedly fatigued, the officers having had 
nothing to eat since breakfast the day before. Of 
their experience I may not speak, for I did not par- 

At half-past seven the next morning I was sent 
with my detail to brigade headquarters for a second 
time, but was again ordered to camp. The Johnnies 
were so exasperated at the events of the last thirty- 


six hours that it was not safe for groups of men to 
be seen around the picket line, though generally, as 
already indicated, there was no firing on our front. 
Soon after noon I strolled over to the chapel, but 
learned there would be no service until six o'clock, 
that the men might rest after the severe labors of 
the preceding day — a proper exemplification of the 
principle: "The Sabbath was made for man and not 
man for the Sabbath." 

I was hardly settled again in camp when the adju- 
tant informed me the picket must go out in a few 
minutes — so for a third time I visited headquarters, 
and this time successfully, for speedily we were 
marched, and most literally to the front ! The Union 
line in that section resembled a horseshoe, taking 
Fort Davis as one heel calk and Fort Fisher the 
other, the curve being re-entering. The picket lines 
of both forces had conformed themselves measurably 
thereto, but about the time of the affair at Fort 
Fisher, more definitely when we heard the firing on 
our front, our picket line charged and gained ground 
sufficient to render the line comparatively straight. 
I was assigned a position to the right of the Halifax 


road, extending across and beyond the Weldon rail- 
road, Avhich there was directly parallel and but a few 
yards removed, at a point where the enemy had con- 
structed a rifle pit, as it turned, for our especial ben- 
efit. Occupying it in reverse we found the earth 
just high enough to fire over, and just thick enough 
to stand. At intervals of forty yards were groups 
of six men in charge of a corporal, forming outposts. 
Each of these sent forward some thirty yards two 
sentinels, who at intervals of sixty feet crouched be- 
hind stumps or small piles of earth with their rifles 
at a ready, and peered intently into the darkness 
for an hour, when they were relieved. Each post 
had its little fire, which could be extinguished in- 
stantly in case of attack, whereby the men, as well 
as their coffee, were warmed. My first post was on 
the railroad track. The brigade officer discovering 
it was my first turn of duty gave me some special in- 
structions as follows : I must not return the enemy's 
fire unless it should come pretty lively — not for two 
or three, or even more shots ; then he would be with 
the reserve a few rods to the rear, on the road, and 
he would repair therewith to that portion of the line 


which was hardest pressed, to me or to my neighbor, 
as occasion required ; but in any event I must not 
retreat an inch; I must hold the line at all hazards. 
He also indicated the position of the division grand 
reserve as still farther to the rear on the same road. 
Now, I was perfectly ignorant of the practical mean- 
ing of the phrase "hard pressed," but the last direc- 
tion I clearly understood, and reflecting upon the 
mile or two intervening between myself and camp, 
also upon the blissful condition of standing between 
two fires should we indeed be driven back, I con- 
cluded it would be quite as healthy to stick to the 
breast-work under any circumstances and settled my 
mind accordingly. 

At ten o'clock, and again about two, I visited my 
sentinels. There was no moon and the sky was 
overcast sufficiently to conceal nearly every star. 
In making my rounds 1 went to my right post, thence 
forward to my right sentinel, then to the left, know- 
ing the railroad would indicate my last man. Of 
course they were not in exact line, but scattered as 
cover was available. On more than one occasion, so 
intense was the darkness, I was obliged to kneel, and 


placing my head against the ground, relieve my man, 
not sixty feet off, against the sky, in order to ascer- 
tain his whereabouts. Once I had thus determined 
a sentry's location, and was making my way toward 
him, as I supposed, when suddenly, from some twenty 
feet to my left, came the low challenge, " Halt ! who 
goes there ?" " Oh, that's where you are !" was my 
reply. " Yes," said he, as I made my way toward 
him. I had mistaken my course and gotten thus far 
beyond the lines, a situation most interesting, not 
only from the possibility of encountering prowling 
scouts, but also because the men had orders promptly 
to shoot any one attempting to pass the lines. About 
four o'clock, the brigade officer notified me that the 
Johnnies were forming in line of battle on our front, 
and we must be ready for a brush at any instant, di- 
recting me at the same time to warn my men. I 
sent my sergeant to inform the sentinels, while I 
looked after the posts, and until daylight paced up 
and down the line seeing every man was wide awake. 
What rendered our condition the more enjoyable, 
were the facts that no abattis had yet been con- 
structed on our front, that not an eighth of a mile 


away was a thick wood providing excellent cover 
for our neighbors until they should be close at hand, 
that the Halifax road afforded superior facilities for 
transposing their troops, and that the picket fires 
revealed our forms clearly to their sharpshooters. 
Up to that time I had considered the moon a very 
decent creation, designed for the accommodation of 
lovesick youth. Since then I have had the greatest 
respect for her majesty — her benignant smile has 
been esteemed most precious. No disturbance oc- 
curred, however, and when about eight o'clock, Mon- 
day, twenty-seventh, I observed the relief coming 
down the road, I felt extremely good-natured. Most 
of that day was spent in the recovery of lost sleep. 

Tuesday, twenty-eighth, the regiment fell in at the 
trenches at four o'clock, as on the preceding noon ; 
it remained under arms until daylight. Both fore- 
noon and afternoon I assisted the captain in drilling. 

On Wednesday, twenty-ninth, large bodies of col- 
ored troops moved to the left, followed by apparently 
an unending stream of wagons. If I remember 
rightly, on the preceding day I observed Sheridan's 
cavalry moving in the same direction. Early in the 


morning we received orders to pack and hold our- 
selves in readiness to march at short notice. This 
looked like moving. Accordingly every thing valu- 
able was packed in our valises, save those articles 
considered indispensable on the march. Toward 
night we were directed to loosen the coverings of 
our " shebangs." More ominous yet. I patronized 
the company barber, that I might the better preserve 
a cool head during the events apparently imminent. 
Just after tea and as dusk was drawing on apace, 
while writing in my hut I was summoned to the 
door to view the most magnificent pyrotechnic dis- 
play I ever witnessed. All the officers were watch- 
ing it, and they unanimously testified they never be- 
held aught so brilliant. Off to the right five or six 
shells, sometimes eight, could continuously be seen 
exploding in mid air — on either side the flashing of 
their guns ; and later the trajectories of the projec- 
tiles were readily determined by the blazing fuses. 
Yet not a sound disturbed the serenity of the hour 
— naught impaired the attractiveness of the scene. 
At length we retired to our huts, only to be called 


out at half-past ten to the rifle trench, whence we 
were dismissed after an hour. 

At four o'clock Thursday morning, thirtieth, we 
were directed to have all our men equipped and 
armed ready to form at an instant's notice, but on 
account of the driving rain they were permitted to 
remain in their huts. The storm continued until the 
middle of the afternoon when it cleared away finely. 
Thereupon we congratulated ourselves, for no one 
likes to march in mud ; yet none of the line really 
expected marching orders. During the morning 
we could hear the sound of fighting from the dis- 
tant and extreme left ; at one time in the after- 
noon, nearer; cannonading and musketry, apparently 
at or about Port Fisher. Wearied by the loss of 
sleep, I had turned in early, when the adjutant or- 
dered all hands to headquarters. I dressed quickly 
and went ; found all the officers present. We were 
directed to have the men pack, strike tents, load 
guns, but not cap them (all this to be done noise- 
lessly), leave fires burning brightly, light neither 
pipe nor match, nor fire a gun until ordered, under 
penalty of being shot. We separated, notified our 


respective companies, and at once made preparations 
for leaving. At nine o'clock the wagons were all 
packed and the regiment in line ready to march. 
After a time an orderly rode up to the colonel, gave 
the necessary order, and started for the next camp. 
He had scarcely left when a staff officer came up and 
countermanded the order. We were dismissed to 
our quarters but were not permitted to put on our 
roofs ; therefore, for the first time in my life, I slept 
directly beneath the broad canopy of heaven. 

At four o'clock Friday, twenty-first, we were in the 
trench as usual. It had just begun to sprinkle, and 
ere long it rained quite fast. When dismissed, some 
old tents were procured to about cover the " shebang" 
— that portion containing the bunk, entirely. My 
wet clothing I hung by the fire to dry, and lay down 
for a nap. Could you have seen me then you would 
have readily believed I was taking comfort. The 
floor was changed to mud, everything was damp, and 
the waters descended with no prospect of remission. 
Finally the teams unpacked. I put on other cloth- 
ing which I wore two hours, when orders came to 
pack and be ready to start at a moments notice. 


Back the things were hustled into the valise and 
speedily was I again in fatigue suit ready for instant 
duty. I proceeded to remove my tent roof, when 
another orderly appeared, the command was counter- 
manded, and soon we were directed to fasten on our 

About one o'clock Saturday, April first, I was 
awakened by some shots close at hand; a moment 
or two later the long roll was heard springing from 
one regimental guard-house to another down the 
line from Fort Fisher with the rapidity of a rockets 
flight. As its advanced crest passed us on its way 
toward the Ninth Corps, the weird hour nor its 
fearful portent could impair the beauty of its sound, 
the charm of its magic progress. Almost instantly 
we were at the trench, and for an hour most pa- 
tiently waited a call from our neighbors. But they 
did not favor us, so we returned to our peaceful cots. 

At three o'clock, an hour earlier than usual lest 
we should be anticipated by our erring friends, we 
were again in line, and rested in line until daylight, 
as it proved for the last time. At eight o'clock I 
went on officer of the day, also, for the last time. In 


the evening, just after dark, we were ordered to 
headquarters, when the colonel informed us that 
Thursday evening's programme would now be car- 
ried out. Commanders of companies immediately 
notified their first sergeants to form their men, and 
most speedily was the regiment in line, in heavy 
marching orders. The fires were left burning 
brightly, and as most of the " tents " were unroofed 
the camp presented an unusually cheery appearance. 
I frequently wondered what the Johnnies would 
think of our apparent frequent illuminations, and in- 
deed, subsequently I ascertained they were sorely 
perplexed thereat. Distant batteries had hitherto 
been firing, but every thing was quiet on our front. 
The regiment was on the point of starting when the 
question arose. What shall I do, and when, and 
to whom shall I look for orders ? So I approached 
the colonel and waited a suitable opportunity. Sud- 
denly the neighboring works opened. It was inde- 
scribably magnificent — the brilliant flashes, the heavy 
reports and the shrill whistling of the shells. About 
that time he turned with " What is it Mr. Peck?" 
" I was waiting for orders, but as the charge is to be 


made over here" — "What is that?" ejaculated he, 
meekly. I replied, perceiving it is not proper for a 
subaltern to know too much, " I was merely wait- 
ing for instructions." " Go to brigade headquarters 
and the brigade officer of the day will give them to 
you." I saluted and retired, subsequently discov- 
ering I had divined what was proper only for the 
field officers to know — that the assault would be 
made near Port Fisher. 

After the regiment had departed I reported at 
brigade headquarters and received orders to have 
every man at the breastwork the entire night ; none 
must be allowed an instant's sleep ; and in case of a 
counter attack, I must hold the line at all hazards. 
These were readily comprehended. I returned and 
posted my men in the trench, about twenty-five feet 
apart. During the remaining hours of that memora- 
ble night I paced my lonely beat, watching the light- 
ening flashing guns, the glittering trajectory of the 
shells, and the fitful glare of their explosion, listen- 
ing eagerly to every sound, striving to divine the 
position of my comrades, while equally intent that 
no danger should unexpectedly assail me. The 


neighboring forts soon ceased because too retroced- 
ent to damage aught but our recently advanced 
picket line. Forts Fisher and Sedgewick remained 
centers of attraction. It did seem as though they 
were trying pretty hard to hurt some one in those 

The morning hours of the day of rest were spent 
in gazing at light wreaths of sulphurous smoke grad- 
ually rising from the Ninth Corps front, an accepta- 
ble offering of incense from the altar of exalted self- 
sacrifice and patriotism. Clearly I heard cheering, 
as from three or four distinct charges. The earlier 
ones were broken off suddenly, as from a repulse ; 
the last were much more prolonged, re-echoing and 
dying away gradually, as from victory. I am posi- 
tive they proceeded from the Yanks by their quality 
And still the hubbub continued with little remission 
until nearly noon. Later in the day I observed col- 
umn after column of smoke rise toward heaven, and 
more and more remotely to our left. I accepted 
them as proof's of my comrades progress, the burning 
of abattis. And still later in the day when I heard 
of the gallant deeds of the regiment, how its colors 


were the first planted upon the hostile works, and 
how our beloved Colonel Rhodes, than whom is no 
truer soldier, was himself the first to scale the battle- 
ments, though followed almost upon the instant by 
his entire command, a deep regret obtained that I 
had been deprived participation in the pleasure and 
perils of that never to be forgotten day. 

Since daylight 1 had permitted the men, who 
were still kept at the breastwork, to take much 
needed sleep and rest where they were. Toward 
night I divided them into five posts, each consist- 
ing of five men and a corporal, one of whom was 
constantly standing on the parapet peering into 
the darkness. Powerful force, thought I, to defend 
a line for which the entire battalion was scarcely 
sufficient. About nine o'clock, having slept none 
since daylight Saturday, I was prevailed on by the 
sergeant of the guard to take a nap, he promising to 
call me at midnight or when the moon should go 
down. At three o'clock Monday morning, third, I 
woke with a start, finding it perfectly dark. I lit 
my candle, dressed, and was about opening my door, 
when a corporal came, rapped, and asked if I would 


like to see Petersburg on fire, pointing to a bright 
light over that city About four o'clock an explo- 
sion occurred, followed by a marked diminution of 
the crimson cloud. At light we were ordered to 
pack, our picket joined us, and the various details 
assembled at a neighboring camp, whence we took 
the Halifax road for Petersburg. 

Passing at length through lines of abattis and 
rows of chevaux-de-frise of most perfect workman- 
ship, we crossed, on a bridge composed of two logs, 
a ditch some twenty feet deep and equally wide, 
scaled a parapet towering nearly the same distance 
above our heads, crossed a small tract of very rough 
country intersected with deep ravines, and found 
ourselves within the suburbs of Petersburg. Here 
we halted for an hour, near to a little grocery that 
appeared not to have any proprietor; hence the boys 
helped themselves to what tbey desired — no one 
saying " Why do ye so ?" The tobacco was promptly 
removed and distributed. Nothing else was found 
eatable save half a cask of prunes two or three years 
old, dry, and slightly mouldy — not a very tempting 
viand, yet most every one took a handful. Sundry 


individuals appropriated little china and glass vases 
and statuettes as keepsakes, but 1 doubt if many of 
them reached the north. Just as we moved on I 
saw smoke pouring from one of its windows — some 
vagabond had fired the store. But we could not 
tarry to remedy the mischief for the order to march 
had been given. 

We had nearly reached the centre of the city when 
loud cheers were heard from the right of the column 
and rapidly nearing. I looked up, and lo, President 
Lincoln accompanied by Generals Grant and Meade, 
with full staff and escort of cavalry. With hat in 
hand he graciously acknowledged the greetings of 
the soldiers, who enthusiastically swung their caps 
high in air, and made the city ring with their loud 
hurrahs. His careworn countenance was illumed 
with a benignant smile ; it was the hour of triumph; 
he was receiving the reward of four years of un- 
paralleled toil, anxiety and care. He was unrecog- 
nized by the late slaves who lined the streets in con- 
siderable numbers, but upon learning his identity 
they too joined heartily in the welcome. The white 
residents were for the most part invisible ; some 


could occasionally be discerned peeping through the 
half-turned blinds of the upper windows. As he 
passed I turned for one last lingering look, impressed 
that it was my only opportunity. Little did I imagine, 
however, that his noble career would be terminated 
so speedily and in such a manner. Those brief mo- 
ments amply repaid me for what I had previously 
considered a serious mischance, and their recollec- 
tion will be sacredly cherished to the latest moment 
of life. 

We now turned to the left, passed the white 
wooden house where it was said General A. P Hill 
died, and again Ave were in the open fields, hasting 
to rejoin our comrades. This territory had hitherto 
escaped the ravages of war, and bright peach-blos- 
soms, tender leaves and azure sky, with attendant 
circumstances, conspired to place all in the very best 
of spirits. We travelled route step by the right flank, 
doubled files, resting occasionally for ten or fifteen 
minutes. In the afternoon we were ordered to rest 
in the wood by the roadside, while the Ninth Corps 
marched by us. I was indignant, for certainly on 
more than one occasion " Sheridan's heavy cavalry " 


showed it could out-march as well as out-fight any 
other body of men in the Army of the Potomac ; 
but of course I had to submit. 

Once again we started and I marched on. At sun- 
set I found myself, with Sergeant William A. Aymer, 
a re-enlisted veteran, and a half dozen men, on the 
heels of the Ninth Corps, with not a Greek cross in 
sight. How did that occur — where were the rest 
of the details ? I don't know. 1 simply recall at 
this moment the dim outline of a chap on horseback, 
who looked rather hard at me once ; but he said 
nothing, nor did I. At nine o'clock the Ninth Corps 
massed in an open field near a wood and bivouacked. 
I wished to pass on with my squad and overtake the 
regiment, but Sergeant Aymer positively refused ; 
the men agreed with him that they could not march 
further; I did not see exactly how I could compel 
them to proceed, hence 1 yielded. We went to the 
outer flank of the corps, found an old apple tree and 
make a little fire. The men heated their coffee, 
warmed their meat, and ate their suppers. We then 
wrapped ourselves in our blankets and went to 


On Tuesday, fourth, I waked with a start. It 
was very dark and very still. Here and there 
some faintly glowing embers could be discovered. 
Not a man of that mighty host was visible ; not 
a sound was heard. I awoke ray sergeant with the 
remark: "Come let us be off; the Ninth Corps 
has gone." " Guess not." said he. At that instant 
the reveille sounded — half-past five o'clock in the 
morning. In a few moments a thousand fires were 
brightly blazing, kettles boiling, sauce-pans frying. 
By seven our frugal repast was finished, and upon my 
direct order we started ahead of the Ninth Corps. We 
passed a few wagon trains and soon after nine overtook 
the Sixth Corps, resting by the roadside. Cordial 
greetings marked our return to our regiment. One 
man presented me with a small chunk of raw beef. 
I thrust it on the end of a pointed stick and held it 
over a neighboring fire until slightly brown, then 
straightway proceeded to devour it, for two days had 
elapsed since tasting any, and a portion of the time I 
had been on short allowance. While here staff officers 
rode up to each brigade and read the official announce- 
ment of the occupation of Kichmond. The land 


was slightly undulatory, so that I embraced in a single 
glance nearly the entire corps. It was most inspir- 
ing to witness the hats, caps and knapsacks tossed 
high in air ; to hear the enthusiastic cheering, and 
to listen to the national anthems, which never sounded 
half so sweet as when thrown on that balmy spring 
air by those brigade bands. We marched that day 
until half-past seven o'clock in the evening, and then 
pitched our shelter tents, Lieutenant Carr and my- 
self occupying one together. Of course we rested 
meanwhile — say ten minutes in an hour — the pro- 
cess being as follows : The leading brigade turned a 
little to one side of the road, marched its length 
parallel to the road and halted. The second brigade 
filed in to the rear of this, the third to the rear of 
the second, and so until the nine brigades of the 
three divisions of the corps were massed. As the 
last man of the last brigade marched on to the ground, 
the right man of the first brigade started. Thus 
each received his allotted portion of rest, while the 
corps was constantly moving. 

On Wednesday, fifth, I arose early and took a bath, 
the first since leaving Petersburg. Where did I get 


the water ? Out of my canteen of course. That which 
remained unused from the preceding day. There 
was none to spare it is true, hut then, water when 
used economically, will go a great ways. It was 
very satisfactory I mention the fact simply to show 
that sundry so-called privations were the result of 
negligence or laziness, though it is certain even the 
canteen of water could not always be procured. We 
started about seven o'clock, and halted about ten for 
rations. General orders were read, thanking the 
men for their valor and congratulating them upon 
the work already accomplished, but now it might be 
necessary to test their devotion in other ways ; other 
privations might be required in order to close the 
war promptly ; they must be prepared to endure 
hunger. One and a half days, rations would be is- 
sued which must be made to last three days ; then, if 
the teams were up, more would be supplied, elsewise 
they must make out as best they could. Moreover, 
no rations were to be issued to officers. " Encour- 
aging," was my sole reflection. But lo, the colonel 
with accustomed forethought had sent in a requisi- 
tion, with due amount of red ink and tape, probably, 


for seven days rations for his officers, and had had it 
approved, so that, much to our joy, we had all the sup- 
plies we could carry and a surplus to distribute 
among our men. Moreover, by some lucky chance 
an extra box of hard-tack was sent to our company - 
The boys being raw recruits began some demonstra- 
tions of joy, but they were promptly silenced and 
the windfall quickly distributed. 

I think it was this noon that we rested for a few 
minutes on a beautiful knoll, surmounted by a large 
two-story frame house that had not been painted for 
some years prior to the war, yet evidently belonged to 
a very well-to-do family. The grounds were in an ex- 
cellent state of cultivation, and the entire plantation 
seemed pervaded with an unusual air of thrift. But 
alas, the residents had foolishly forsaken their homes. 
A window was raised ; some one entered and opened 
the front door, and immediately the house was ran 
sacked for meal and other edibles. Just as we left 
smoke was discovered issuing from crevices in the 
shingles; some vandal had undoubtedly fired it, and 
though nearly every one was loud in their execrations 
of the wanton deed, I presume it was impossible todis- 


cover the offender. Had the proprietors remained the 
residence had been preserved. This misdirected pru- 
dence was scarcely equalled by that, other family, 
which, observing the approach of the Yankees, 
gathered its pigs and poultry in pens close beside the 
house, instead of turning them into the neighboring 
wood, where it would puzzle a native, much more a 
stranger, to find one. It chanced the path of our 
corps led directly through their back yard, and I 
well remember the amusing scene, as, having just 
passed the crest of a hill, I could observe in the near 
valley our advanced bummers surround the pens and 
plunge their glittering bayonets into piggy's flanks, 
and having captured bear them proudly off slung to 
their knapsacks. Nor did the poultry coops fare 
better ; but no indignity was offered to the resi- 

But to return to my story. It had grown decid- 
edly warm, and most of the men devoted their halt 
to the task of lightening the knapsack. For nearly 
half a mile from the burning building, I could have 
walked on blankets, overcoats, old uniforms, albums, 
books, etc., each one ridding himself of surplus bag- 


gage according to taste. After this rests were 
few and far between. In the afternoon we fre- 
quently passed through roads where the rail-fences, 
grass, and sometimes even the woods were all ablaze, 
kindled from the camp-fires of the retreating host. 
I noticed when we traversed such places, the column 
was well closed up. The air was like that at the 
mouth of a fiery furnace. The exertion began to 
tell upon me, though I carried nothing but my 
woolen and rubber blankets, in a coat- sling, so that 
about five o'clock the blood burst from my nostrils 
in profuse streams. This was precisely the manner 
in which I had expected to give out. Having been 
mustered conditionally, I escaped an examination 
that I doubt I could have passed — and here I was. 
I asked the captain what I should do. He said he did 
not see but what I must fall out. I told him I could 
not do that. I had always entertained a profound 
commiseration for those soldiers who had never 
pmelled powder. I had not yet been under fire, and 
the next chance must not be missed, let the conse- 
quences be what they would. Fortunately we were 
passing a burning tobacco-house, fired in the way 


already indicated. The men half loitered for an in- 
stant to view it, when I ran to the right of the regi- 
ment and asked the adjutant to lend me his horse for a 
few minutes. He readily assented, and dismounted. 
I took his place, permitted surplus blood to escape, 
loosened my clothing about the neck, cooling off grad- 
ually, retured the horse after an hour, and marched 
until I was so weary I could have slept while walking 
— until half past eleven. Fires were at once lighted, 
coffee made, meat fried, and supper made ready. 
As the only water available was that procured from 
a little rill which had just been forded by at least 
two brigades, I concluded I would take coffee for 
supper. It was slightly cloudy, but we guessed it 
would not rain before light, so spreading my rubber 
blanket on the ground and wrapping myself in the 
woolen one — with haversack containing clothing, 
coffee and sugar for a pillow, and my slouched hat 
for a nightcap — I composed myself to peaceful 

Next morning, Thursday, sixth, was awakened by 
a drizzling rain in my face. Concluded it was high 
time I was up, for I never thought it wholesome to lie 


on! damp ground, so I sprang at once to my feet. 
Soon reveille was sounded and breakfast served. 
Because the water was still muddy, I filled my can- 
teen with coffee, though generally 1 allayed thirst 
by munching hard-tack. Our first course was in a 
north-easterly direction, but before we had made 
more than three or four miles we were faced about, 
returned almost to the spot whence we started, and 
then continued marching, with halts few and brief, 
in the pathway of the sun. Hour after hour we 
trudged, and trudged, and trudged; encouraged now 
and then by discovering, in adjoining fields, ambu- 
lances that might have been new in the Mexican 
campaigns ; carts and wagons, indisputably the prop- 
erty of the first families of Virginia ; caissons and 
gun-carriages, with pieces that evidently had not 
received an hours repairs since the Gettysburg 
campaign; and finally, dropped in the very middle 
of the road from utter exhaustion, old horses literally 
skin and bones, and so weak as scarcely to be able 
to lift their heads when some soldier would touch 
them with his foot to see if really they had life. 
Between three and four o'clock, I think, from some 


commanding eminence, I caught my first glimpse of 
a distant line of battle. It was at rifle practice. 
The position of the men, the dead and wounded 
scattered over the ground, the officers galloping to 
and fro, corresponded so accurately to the delinea- 
tions of Harper's Weekly, that it seemed but the re- 
currence of an old familiar scene. Soon the order 
was given, "Double quick — March !" One old gray- 
headed fellow, over six feet high in his stockings, 
and so ungainly we never took him out on 'parades, 
had positively refused to lighten his knapsack in the 
least during all the fatiguing march. At this com- 
mand he exclaimed, " Oh, captain, I can't keep 
up any longer ; I am all tired out." The captain 
replied, " You should have thought of that before ; 
you must keep up now." He renewed his energies 
and remained with us to the end of the engagement, 
but I never saw him again, for the self-imposed se- 
verities of the pursuit bore so hardly on his consti- 
tution that he was sent to the hospital, whence he 
was discharged at the close of the war. 

We now advanced for ten or fifteen minutes almost 
at a run, then lapsed into a walk sufficiently long to 


regain breath, and on again as before. During one 
of these half pauses we met a man in butternut suit, 
beardless, with very red, blooming cheeks and yet 
darkly tanned, long-haired, with broad-brimmed hat, 
and dilapidated horse equipments. I was amazed to 
see the cordial greetings he received, and the hearty 
hand-shakes from many of our officers and men, as 
we still kept marching on. It was none other than 
our Major (Henry H. Young, chief of scouts on Gen- 
eral Sheridan's staff), who had just returned from a 
tour through the enemy's lines, and imparted infor- 
mation to his commander upon which the conduct of 
the impending battle would be based. About the 
same time we passed, drawn out one side the road, 
a battery of light artillery, the gorgeous shoulder- 
knots and elaborately embroidered jacket of whose 
commander, revealed it at once to be Battery H of 
the First Rhode Island Light Artillery, Captain (after- 
wards Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel) Crawford Allen, 
Jr., commanding. A little previous, as we came sud- 
denly upon a clearing (most of this double-quick 
was through pineries), I caught sight of something 
on the ground, and looking down I discovered, almost 


at my feet, a man about twenty-eight years of age, 
clad in a dark blue jacket with yellow trimmings, 
his countenance darkened, and a red spot in the 
centre of his forehead. " Suggestive," was the first 
reflection: and the second " Well, I have seen a 
dead cavalryman." 

When the order for accelerated movement was 
given, I concluded there might be a little brush with 
the enemy speedily, but through some mistake sup- 
posed we were in the left brigade, and, therefore, as 
reserve, I should have a splendid chance to witness 
a fight. Suddenly, however, I heard the order " By 
company into line — March!" and immediately I 
found myself in the line of battle. Glancing to the 
left, as the remainder of the battalion came up, I 
found that another brigade was to form the reserve, 
and that we were on the extreme flank, a position 
whose beauties are familiar to all. We were on the 
crest of a hill, where we halted for some minutes. A 
second glance towards the left revealed a farm-house 
in the distance. I noted its bearings, feeling sure a 
field hospital would speedily be established there, and 
ere long I might need to visit it. I also noted a 


group of horsemen on a projecting knoll, gazing at 
the opposite height. They soon turned and rode up 
the rear of the line toward the right, affording me 
my first glimpse of General Sheridan and General 
Wheaton (Prank, Brevet Major- General, command- 
ing First Division, a former colonel of the Second.) 
These and other accompanying dignitaries appeared 
decidedly rough, the former especially. 1 was now 
well satisfied that I was about to engage in my first 
battle. Silently commending myself to the kind con- 
sideration of the Supreme Arbiter of destinies, I at 
once opened, as it were, a mental photograph album 
containing the faces of all my friends, and those 
scenes to which I was deeply attached. Upon each 
I bestowed a single keen glance. About a dozen 
faces received a second ; a third was bestowed on 
three or four. Finally two were studied tenderly, 
carefully — my mother, and one whose gentle form 
long since blended with common dust. Thus I gazed, 
how long I know not, but the entire pause could not 
have exceeded ten minutes, probably was not pro- 
tracted half that time — until the colonel's clear voice 
sounded " Attention !" when the album was instantly 


closed, and now, business, was the only thought. 
Descending the hill, " Prepare to cross a marsh P 
was passed along the line. I trod gingerly and on the 
hummocks, for I did not care to loose my whangs, 
broad, flat, low-heeled shoes of the pattern issued 
the enlisted men, the very best for continued heavy 
tramps. Three or four minutes later we found our- 
selves confronted by a hedge so high and so dense, 
it was impossible to see what was beyond. There 
was an involuntary pause — but only for an instant. 
Glancing around to find some available opening, I 
discovered the colors, some twenty paces to the left, 
had advanced about a yard and a half beyond the ob- 
struction, and that every one in their neighborhood 
had clustered around the breach thus made. My own 
men were scattering to the right and the left. The 
colonel stormed, and officers shouted " Go ahead." 
but no perceptible progress was made. Thinking I 
could clear a passage for my own men, I thrust my 
hands into and through the hedge, spread them 
apart, and found a stream of muddy water a dozen 
feet wide. Visions of New England brooks at once 
rose before me. I was slightly held by numerous 


withes, and moreover was unwilling to injure my 
hands with briars, so with the exclamation " Com- 
pany G, this way," I boldly jumped for the middle 
of the stream expecting to land knee-deep in water 
I went through the hedge and struck where I ex- 
pected, but immersed above the sword-belt, and with 
feet so firmly imbedded it was impossible to stir 
them in the least. Thoroughly startled at the idea 
that perchance I had jumped into a Virginia quick- 
sand, I seized hold of the farther bank and held on 
tightly. Finding I did not sink, I began working 
my feet gently to the right and left, soon extricated 
them from the mud, and then clambered out. Captain 
John A. Jeffrey's face now appeared at the opening. 
He enquired about the depth of the water. I re- 
ported, and warned him to let himself down easily. 
After assisting him and two enlisted men over, it 
seemed that every one was across and our line was 

As the brigade came into position, it was found 
some of the advanced regiments occupied more space 
in column than was requisite ; they accordingly closed 
up to the right immediately on crossing the creek, 


so that we found ourselves, on gaining the farther 
bank, separated from the remainder of the line by 
a very considerable interval. Due regard to our 
own well-being forbade this of course, so we faced 
to the right, without doubling, and marched until 
the distance was reduced to little more than fifty 
yards. As we started, a regular battery on the hill 
we so recently occupied, opened fire and dropped 
a ball in the morass some thirty feet short of us. It 
was amusing to see the men, naturally disturbed and 
irritated, shake their fists and hurl maledictions at the 
blunderers. A second shot just cleared our heads, 
but the third struck half way up the hill on our front, 
and the fourth reached the enemy's lines. At the 
same time the bullets began to fall as hailstones 
around us, and twigs from the hedge just passed cov- 
ered the ground like snow-flakes. Under this double 
fire the men became slightly, but only slightly, ner- 
vous, and diminished the distance from breast to 
knapsack, so that when we faced again to the front 
the files were a trifle crowded. I endeavored to 
impart mathematical precision to my company, but 
speedily relinquished the impossible venture, with 


the consoling reflection. " There'll be enough elbow 
room soon !" The men were now directed to crouch, 
as the bullets fell thicker and faster around us, but 
the colonel, Captain Gleason and two or three other 
officers, remained standing. Having, as a file-closer, 
no particular responsibility, I busied myself with ob- 
serving the situation. We were at the foot of a 
moderately steep, turf-covered declivity over whose 
summit the foliage of dense trees was visible. Some 
twenty rods to our left this growth, sufficiently dark 
and threatening, extended down the hillside to the 
creek. Fine place for a flanking party, thought I ; 
but the colonel said " Those woods are occupied by 
our cavalry," so professionally, I was satisfied. Still 
as none of us had seen indications of said occupa- 
tion, we strongly suspected somebody had been 
lying. Thus it proved, though Colonel Rhodes was 
not the one at fault. Cause of false statement : fear 
that we would not do our duty, should we know the 
actual state of affairs — a most unwarrantable reflec- 
tion on those first to surmount the ramparts of 
Petersburg. We did obey orders in complete dis- 
trust of the imposition. From the lieutenant- 


colonel commanding to the humblest private, " If 
this be so, all right," was the thought, and some- 
times the word. 

Next I studied the line. I was always very curious 
as to the deportment of men under fire, so with rare 
eagerness turned from right to left and left to right, 
watching the movements of each individual. Every 
imaginable position was assumed, from the half erect 
to an apparent attempt to tunnel the hillside. It was 
especially comical to observe many of them bob their 
head as bullets passed close to their ears. Suddenly, 
" whit!" sped a ball by my right ear ; involuntarily I 
imitated those I had been ridiculing, and thereafter 
stooped about two inches lower. And all this time, 
while the leaden missiles were as thick as mosquitoes 
in early autumn, I saw not a grayback, nor yet a rifle 

At length the order to charge was given. The 
tactical combination ensuing, I will not describe. 
How the regiment made a charge, virtually unsup- 
ported ; how it received a murderous fire at short 
range, from three sides, and indeed from the left rear 
also ; how it was driven to the foot of the hill, and, 


after re-forming, again charged in time to participate 
in the bagging of eight thousand men and seven 
generals will be told by the commanding officer in 
a forthcoming paper. My narrative is strictly per- 
sonal. At the word " Forward !" the men sprang 
to their feet, fired into the woods, and with a cheer 
dashed forward on the run. Gaining a few rods, 
they fell, loaded (officers meanwhile simply stooping), 
rose again, fired, and made a second dash, suggest- 
ing, even there, the Turc(Js of the Franco-Italian 
war of 1859, as delineated in Harper's Weekly and 
the Illustrated London News of that date. I was 
gratified thus to know that a soldier's fighting capa- 
city depends upon the individual, not the uniform. 
I rejoiced at the power of adaptation to circumstances 
— for my men, at least, had received no such instruc- 
tion. By this time there was more than sufficient 
elbow room. 

With the third dash came the words : " Now close 
on them — Go for them !" I always had a horror of 
stepping on the wounded, especially my own ; be- 
sides this was my first charge, and that over any- 
thing but smooth ground ; so naturally I devoted 


considerable attention to seeing where I was going. 
At length I imagined I had about reached the sum- 
mit, and must be ready to close on the hostiles, so I 
looked up; but lo ! no one was before me. Sur- 
prised and perplexed, I turned to the left and no one 
was there. The colors were already half way down 
the hill and moving deliberately to the rear ; the 
soldiers on the extreme left had already reached the 
creek. Glancing now to the right, I found the nearest 
man, eight or ten feet away, was wheeling about. 
As I did not care to present any confederate with 
either sword, watch or revolver, and could offer but 
slight resistance when single-handed, I concluded to 
retrace my steps also, and accordingly commenced a 
march in common time to the rear. 

In taking my rapid survey, I noticed thirty or 
forty " secesh " on a projecting knoll, enjoying a com- 
fortable little target practice. I thought if any ex- 
pert chap should take a fancy to send a ball after me, 
I prefered the bullet should pass through by the most 
direct route, reducing thereby all damage to the 
minimum ; hence I made a half face to my left, and 
quietly travelled down the hill. Just before effect- 


ing this change of direction, I saw one man run — 
the only one in the entire regiment. Now in such 
circumstances it is very natural to imitate that ex- 
ample, but I soliloquized, " If I were up there and 
saw a fellow running, I would send a ball after him, 
merely from' love of mischief — just to hurry him up 
a little. Now I don't want any more bullets com- 
ing after me than is absolutely essential under the 
circumstances, so I guess I had better walk." When 
one third down the hill, I observed Corporal Thomas 
Parker, who had carried the State colors on many 
hotly contested fields, fall prpstrate, dashing the flag 
to the grouud. Now men were rather scarce in that 
neighborhood at that time, in fact each was doing 
as seemed to him good, and therefore I deter- 
mined to go and pick it up ; but that very instant 
Sergeant William Wathy, who was not more than 
twenty feet distant, sprang forward, raised the fallen 
flag, and was just straightening up when a bullet 
went across the top of his cap, at once bisecting and 
knocking it to the earth. He did not stop to repair 
damages, but bore away the flag, carrying it until 
Corporal Parker, who was only winded by a bullet in 


his knapsack, returned and demanded its restoration. 
I had reached the foot of the hill, and was about 
thirty feet from the edge of the creek, when I felt a 
dull blow in the neighborhood of my left hip. I 
realized I was shot, and was at once curious as to the 
amount of damage. 1 looked down and saw the hole 
was too far to one side to implicate the groin ; for- 
getting a possibly severed artery, I threw my weight 
on my left leg, and finding no bones broken, began to 
laugh as the ludicrousness of the whole affair flashed 
upon me. " You're never hit till you run," was my 
first reflection — not altogether correct, as I shall 
subsequently indicate — and my second, " Three 
weeks, lacking one day, and in the hospital ! Such 
is glory." These investigations and reflections con- 
sumed not more than fifteen seconds. I do not be- 
lieve the man who fired at me ever knew he 
winged his bird. 

Do you want to knew how it feels to be shot ? Ask 
your brother to step into the yard some bright Feb- 
ruary day, when the water is running freely in the 
streets, scoop a double handful of snow from the 
top of the nearest bank, spat it once only with hands 


at right angles, and hurl it with ordinary force from 
a distance of twelve feet. The dull spreading sen- 
sation will be sufficiently accurate. 

On reaching the border of the creek, I hesitated 
for a moment. I did not relish the idea of having that 
muddy water run through my side, moreover I was 
fearful it might hurt ; yet no alternative presented, 
so I lowered myself gently, crossed, and looked for 
that farmhouse heretofore mentioned. Failing to dis- 
cover it, I started for my former position on the crest 
of the hill. After trudging on a spell, using my sword 
meanwhile for a cane, I discpvered myself directly 
in front of Captain Allen's battery. A cannoneer 
was beckoning to a fellow obstructing the range of 
one of the pieces, who at once ran toward the gun, 
delaying its fire so many seconds longer. The artil- 
leryman's gesture indicated that I too was bother- 
ing them, so I made a square face to my left, and 
had stepped not half a dozen paces when a shell 
shrieked by, taking my benedictions to friends across 
the flood. 

Passing to the rear of ihe battery, I occasionally 
met fellows wham I asked concerning the location 


of a hospital, but could elicit no information. Attain- 
ing the crest, I spied the little farmhouse on the ex- 
treme left of the original line of battle, and with 
glad heart thitherward directed my weary steps. 
Twenty rods this side I met a couple of the ambu- 
lance corps, and asked if a hospital was there. " Yes, 
where are you wounded ?" I indicated the spot. 
" Let us assist you there." " No ; I can walk." "But 
let one of us take your arm." I consented and 
started; but if the other had not been ready to 
seize my right, I should have fallen, dragging the 
former upon me. They entirely sustained me the 
rest of the way. 

When within a hundred feet of the house, I was 
laid upon the grass, and one went for a surgeon. 
Upon arrival he asked where I was wounded. I 
showed him. 

" Let me examine it." 

" What for ?" 

" To see if a bone is broken." 

" There is no bone broken." 

" But I must examine." 

" Well, let some one hold my hands." 


Clasping- them, an attendant firmly held them, 
while the surgeon explored the wound with his in- 
dex finger — at least he said he did — I felt nothing. 
He remarked, " Lieutenant, you have had a very 
narrow escape." "I am perfectly well aware of it," 
was my response. He took my silk handkerchief, 
rinsed it thoroughly in cold water, and laid it on the 
double wound. That was all the dressing it received 
in three days. 

Next thing I knew I didn't know much of any- 
thing. I was winking and endeavoring to open my 
eyes. Soon I discovered tree branches and men 
wearing caps. I thought I must be in a street fight 
in Providence, and wondered how I came there, for 
1 felt that did not exactly accord with my style. I 
opened my eyes a little wider ; hearing returned to 
my ears and the cannon's roar restored me to myself. 
Just then a surgeon who had been sent for by a 
faithful soldier, Private William A.Lincoln, under the 
impression I was dying, knelt by my side and asked 
how I felt. 

"All right now, only I should like a little water." 

" I'll have something for you in a minute," and in 


an instant after he added, presenting a tin cup, 
" Here, drink this." 

" What is it?" 

" Whiskey." 

" No, I don't drink whiskey." 

" But you must drink this ;" so down it went ; but 
the potation was perfectly tasteless — that sense also 
had failed roe. 

A few minutes later I heard the order,. " Fire 
second fuzes ;" I instantly inferred the Johnnie's 
must be pouring from their wooded hill-top in disa- 
greeable numbers and might be descending to the 
creek. I began calculating what resistance I could 
offer should they raid on that farmhouse. Mean- 
while the guns were hurling rotten shot with mar- 
vellous rapidity ; but they soon slacked up. I felt 
the wave had been swept back, and I might rest in 
ease and contentment. 

An hour later it began to rain, so Private Lincoln 
went to the house to secure, if possible, my removal 
thither, for every other officer had been quartered 
there as soon as he was brought in. He returned 
with a litter on which I was taken to the house. I 


was then placed on the floor of a room in which 
there were two beds, each occupied by two severely 
wounded officers, while in the third corner, on the 
floor, were at least a half dozen more. The only place 
found for me was in front of one of these beds ; my 
head close beside the hall doorway, where stood 
the operating table, with surgeons working the entire 
night, my body forming the bound of a passage-way 
to the kitchen door in the fourth corner, whence 
people continually passed and repassed. Yet when 
my wet clothes had been removed (a delay which 
caused a three months cough and nearly cost my life) 
and myself wrapped in a couple of army blankets, I 
slept quietly, happily, until daylight. 

Friday, April seventh, awoke quite refreshed. 
Asked Lincoln to look on my right shin and see if he 
could find any mark of a bullet there. He said "No." 
I told him I had beeu struck by a spent ball there, 
before I had advanced a dozen paces on the charge. 
He began to laugh ; you probably have heard of men 
who imagined them selves shot because a bullet struck 
within a couple of yards. Slightly irritated, I told 
him to get my pants from the kitchen and examine 


them. He returned, and showed three bullet holes 
at the spot I had designated — a fold in the wet 
cloth adhering closely to my person, had saved my 
right foot. My attendant now seemed satisfied that 
any statement of mine relating to the recent affray 
could be depended upon. 

After dressing came breakfast. This consisted of 
two hot biscuits and a cup of beef tea. Orientalman- 
ners were adopted during the repast. At ten o'clock 
the surgeons had completed their work, and most of 
them mounted their horses to overtake their regi- 
ments. Toward noon the ambulance train came up. 
Some one asked me if I could ride sitting up. " I 
guess I can," was the reply, " but don't know for 
surety." " Where are you wounded." I indicated 
the spot. " You had best ride lying down." So 
when all the other wounded officers had been pro- 
vided for, save three or four too weak for removal, 
I was borne to an ambulance and placed therein, flat 
on my back, head toward the horses, and my sound 
limb next the side of the carriage. A confederate 
adjutant of heavy artillery, who had lost his right leg 
just below the knee, in this his first battle, was placed 


on the opposite side, while between was laid an en- 
listed man who had been wounded^th rough the chest. 
We were so snugly packed with extra blankets, it 
was impossible to move a muscle, and hence long 
before the train was packed, half-past two o'clock in 
the afternoon, I was perfectly familiar with the loca- 
tion of every prominent bone in my back. Mean- 
while I found comfort in the reflection that the jar 
of the ambulance over corduroy might sometime 
free us from durance vile. It did effectually. We 
had not moved a dozen rods when I succeeded in 
twisting myself half way on my side and thus per- 
mitted my companions to change their positions. 
This was accomplished on a good road, but soon we 
entered upon the full enjoyment of corduroy. We 
formed but a light load, and when we passed over 
rough places — obstacles one would not think of 
driving an ox team over at home, as our driver forci- 
bly expressed it — whether trotting or walking, we 
received their complete benefits. Frequently we 
would be tossed six inches, as we bounded over the 
logs at the foot of steep declivities ; again, as a 
wheel plunged into some deep hole, the carriage 


would lurch like a ship iu a heavy sea, and seem 
ready to capsize ; and this was often followed almost 
instantaneously by a roll in the opposite direction. 
I particularly remember one occasion, when the 
ambulance preceding ours was nearly mired. Our 
driver would not venture farther, so the rail fence 
was taken down and thrown into the wayside ditch, 
to diminish its depth as much as possible. Then 
down our carriage plunged and up the steep bank ; 
next over a cornfield, with stubs still standing, for 
a quarter mile ; then over the ditch again to the 
road. Now all this was fun for me, as I clung to one 
of the bows supporting the top, and kept myself in 
such a position that the bouncing came on soft parts, 
moreover thereby I was somewhat steadied, but not 
so with my companions. The union soldier had 
nothing to hold to, and he groaned heavily. The 
confederate officer was equally unfortunate ; as he 
was thrown up the stump of the amputated limb 
would drop by its own weight, and when he came 
down the end would, of course, strike first. His cries 
of agony may well be imagined ; but then each 
thought only of himself. At times I engaged with 


the adjutant in quiet conversation, chiefly on the 
abilities of various confederate leaders. At eight 
o'clock, after a six hours ride, we reached Burkes- 
ville Junction, and were placed under perforated 
canvas, on the soft sides of pine boards. 

Thus it was 1 scraped acquaintance with the dogs 
of war. When next they howl around these Plan- 
tations, I shall proceed at once to interview them, I 
hope with greater profit to Uncle Sam.